Nov 4 2012 11:00am

Something Else Like... Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan Saga

What else to read if you like Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan sagaLois McMaster Bujold has been nominated for the Hugo Awards eleven times and won five times. Ten of those nominations and four of the wins were for items in the Vorkosigan saga. From Shards of Honor in 1986 to Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance, out this week, the series is still going strong. It’s a wide-ranging series, set in the Wormholm Nexus in the twenty-sixth century, exploring issues of genetics, loyalty, family and love.

When I wrote about it here I said:

It’s a series of standalone volumes that you can start almost anywhere, a series where very few of the books are like each other, where the volumes build on other volumes so that you want to read them all but you don’t need to for it to make sense. It’s science fiction, specifically space opera set in societies where the introduction of new technologies is changing everything. Some volumes are military science fiction, some are mysteries, one is a romance (arguably two), some are political and deal with the fates of empires, others are up-close character studies with nothing more (or less) at stake than one person’s integrity. It’s a series with at least three beginnings, and with at least two possible ends, although it is ongoing. Lots of people love it, but others despise it, saying that technologies of birth and death are not technological enough. As a series, it’s constantly surprising, never predictable, almost never what you might expect—which may well be what has kept it fresh and improving for so long.

If you love it and want to fill in the time between volumes, how do you find something else like that?

Well, the obvious thing is Bujold’s other books. She has written three things not in this universe, the Chalion books (posts), the Sharing Knife series (post), and the standalone The Spirit Ring. All of them are fantasy. They all have the solid worldbuilding of her Vorkosigan books and I like them a lot—but they don’t scratch the same itch. I want to read them when I’m in quite a different mood.

I don’t think anyone is writing anything self-proclaimed as influenced by Bujold—it’s too soon, I think, and Bujold is still active. I also don’t see much that does seem to be influenced by the Vorkosigan saga—if you can, please let me know.

If what you like about the Vorkosigan books is the worldbuilding, the way the technology changes over time, the complexity of history, the impact of the uterine replicators, the way all the books are different from each other and you can start anywhere, then I suggest C.J. Cherryh’s Alliance/Union novels (post). Cherryh also has the same kind of feminist angle on the future, with women soldiers (post) and thoughts about what cloning means (post). There’s a lot of thematic similarity, but I should warn you that Cherryh is grim. Some awful things happen in Bujold, but the overall effect of the Vorkosigan books is uplifting. Cherryh can be more like the middle part of Memory going on relentlessly. I love Cherryh, but she’ll never be comfort reading.

Another writer who writes planets and spaceships and very solid futures, and who has the same kind of areas of concern is Melissa Scott—The Kindly Ones (post) has just been released as an e-book.

If you like empires and spaceships and divided loyalties, try Helen Wright’s A Matter of Oaths (post). This was written too early to be influenced by Bujold, or I’d swear it was—and the influence can’t have gone the other way either, as it’s the same year as Shards.

Cherryh and Scott and Wright all have space stations with their own smell, in the same way Bujold does. They’re also good at having people actually work and thinking about the kind of details like Docks and Locks and bod pods that would need to be thought about. There’s also Walter Jon Williams’s Angel Station (post). And similar, though in many ways completely different, are the early SF novels of Samuel R. Delany, particularly Nova (post) and Babel 17 (post). If you like this multi-dimensionality, you’ll like Delany.

If you like the way Bujold writes SF romance, I can only think of Doris Egan’s Ivory series. If you’ll settle for snappy dialogue and plots like the romance parts of Shards, Komarr, and A Civil Campaign, then try Georgette Heyer. (Currently being re-read by Mari Ness here on Start with Cotillion (post), though the very best one is A Civil Contract (post). They are Regency romances, written in the first half of the twentieth century. Warning: many of them have occasional appalling moments of anti-Semitism and classism. I started reading them because people kept saying that Shards was like a romance novel, and I asked what romance novels were like it. They’re not like Shards. But they are a bit like ACC, and they have the same kind of humour arising from character. You might also like Jennifer Crusie—Maybe This Time (post) is a ghost story, but the one most like Bujold is Faking It about an artist and a con artist. They’re set in modern Ohio. (Everything in this paragraph could do with new editions with covers that imply “Men read this too.” This is an unforeseen advantage of e-readers.)

If you like the way Cetaganda and Komarr are SF mysteries, there’s Adam-Troy Castro’s Andrea Cort series, and Charles Stross’s Halting State. In fantasy mysteries there’s Melissa Scott’s A Point of Hopes. The mystery series that Bujold acknowledges as an influence, and which has clearly been an influence in all kinds of ways are Dorothy Sayers’s Lord Peter Wimsey books (post). You might also try Donald Westlake’s Dortmunder books.

If you like the adventures of Admiral Naismith and the Dendarii Free Mercenaries, then you might like MilSF: the work of David Weber, David Drake, Elizabeth Moon (post), and Walter Jon Williams Praxis books (post) and Baen books, who tend to specialise in that kind of books. You might also enjoy R.M. Meluch’s Merrimack books (post).

If you like the fast paced adventure with the feeling that there’s something more there behind that, then James Corey’s Leviathan Wakes (post) and series might work for you, as might M.J. Locke’s Up Against It.

If you’re looking for other SF with a disabled protagonist then I have very little to offer. There’s Bob Shaw’s Night Walk, about a blind man who can see through the eyes of other people or animals. There’s Elizabeth Moon’s Speed of Dark (post), about a high functioning man with autism. This really is an area where Bujold is doing something really unusual.

If you like the glitter of neo-feudalism, the way an oath is breath and how there’s inheritance and mobility and loyalty and obligation running both ways, again this isn’t done well very often. Apart from Tolkien, obviously, try Dorothy Dunnett’s King Hereafter. Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Darkover books (post) contrast a feudal society with a galactic one.

If you like characters you can really get to know and really care about as they grow and change, try Daniel Abraham’s Long Price books (post, fantasy), Vikram Seth’s A Suitable Boy (post, historical novel) and Cherryh’s Atevi series (post, SF, not as grim). There are also Brust’s Dragaera books (post). They’re fantasy, well, maybe, and they have a really great world that’s slowly revealed over the course of the series, which has been written out of order, just like the Miles books... meaning you can have similar arguments about publication vs chronology, if you enjoy those. You might also like the Patrick O’Brian books, which are historical novels set in the Napoleonic Wars, but which have a number of surprising similarities to Bujold.

What have I missed? Other books like the Vorkosigan series? Other ways you like Bujold?

Jo Walton is a science fiction and fantasy writer. She’s published two poetry collections and nine novels, most recently the Hugo and Nebula winning Among Others. She reads a lot, and blogs about it here regularly. She comes from Wales but lives in Montreal where the food and books are more varied.

Michael Green
1. greenazoth
Sharon Lee and Steve Miller's Liaden Universe books have always struck me as being similar in tone to the Vorkosigan saga -- especially given that Georgette Heyer is an explicit influence on several of their books.

They aren't as tight or compelling as Bujold, but I find they give me a nice fix of character-driven space opera. The Liadens are even stuffier about honor than the Barrayarans, if that's your thing.
Evan H.
2. Evan H.
one is a romance (arguably two)

Out of curiosity, which ones were you counting? I'd have said three at the time you wrote this, and Captain Vorpatril's Alliance brings it to four.
Sara H
3. LadyBelaine
You know, this post finally put the button in the buttonhole for me as I was thinking about how much I was enjoying The Exordium books by Dave Trwobridge and Sherwood Smith: it has a lot of similar elements - an interplantary empire with glittering nobles, some of whom have a very strong sense of duty, a playboy heir running rampant with a band of pirates and mercenaries (and entire society based upon pirate clans), cleverly implemented technology (the Tenno!), strong characters and epic space battles so epic its ridiculous how epic.

As I was reading them, I had a niggling thought that they reminded me of something else.....
Evan H.
4. James Davis Nicoll
I don’t think anyone is writing anything self-proclaimed as influenced by Bujold—it’s too soon, I think, and Bujold is still active.

It's been about 26 years, I think. To use other authors' careers as benchmarchs, 26 years into Heinlein's career, it was 1965 and all his good stuff had been written. 26 years into Niven's career gets him to the point where he was co-writing forgettable sequels to Mote and Dreampark. 26 years into Ursula K. Le Guin's career and most of her works people talk about (excepting Tehanu) were in print. 26 years into Octavia Butler's career the only works of fiction by her not yet in print were Fledgling, Amnesty, The Book of Martha and Childfinder. 26 years into Stanley G. Weinbaum's career he'd been dead for 24 years. I don't think time is a sufficient explanation for a deficit of influence by Bujold on the field.

I have used Elizabeth Moon's space opera as Bujold methadone but she's actually very different except for supericial details so this is like using chicken as a substitute for lamb. Well, more like using chicken with evil, kitten-stomping villains whose bedspreads are made from the tanned hides of newborns as a substitute for lamb.

Althoogh they were written much earlier, I suspect people who like the more comedic aspects of her books might also like the Anthony Villiers series by Panshin.

If you’re looking for other SF with a disabled protagonist then I have very little to offer.


Call Him Joe by Poul Anderson. Pluses: crippled character with agency. Minus: moral is life as a cripple is not worth living if there's an alternative.

Actually, Anderson's entire Flandry series*. I think we're all agreed he is an emotional cripple.

Lawrence Block had a series about Evan Tanner, a guy who as a result of an injury could no longer sleep (in the manner of Al Herpin rather than what usually happens to chronic insomniacs); this left him with a lot of free time which he used to have wacky adventures and also help cause the Yugoslavian Civil War in the 1990s. Whoops.

The Helen Killer series has Helen Keller as super-assassin but she uses gadgets to compensate for her disabilities and I am not 100% sure the comics are historically accurate.

Gene Wolfe's fantasy novels Soldier of the Mists and Soldier of Arete involve a man with no ability to form long term memory (and I read something recently with a supporting character who suffered from a crippling case of hyperthymesia; for him, every day was the day his mother died because his memories and their emotional impact never faded).

* Speaking of Flandy, 26 into that series gets us past the climax of the series and into the forgettable add-ons.
Evan H.
5. Cattfish
I got a Miles Vorkosigan vibe from the Lies of Locke Lamora
Evan H.
6. James Davis Nicoll
a supporting character who suffered from a crippling case of hyperthymesia

Napier's Bones, I think.

It's not SF but Howard Engel's long running character Benny Cooperman suffers from alexia sin agraphia (a condition that prevents him from being able to read written words without a major effort, without affecting his ability to write) in Memory Book; Engel was drawing on his own experiences with alexia sin agraphia.
Evan H.
7. joelfinkle
If you are looking more for tone than theme, a fair amount of John Varley, such as his Eight Worlds books (e.g. Ophiuchi Hotline, Steel Beach) is good between-Bujold fillers. There's a fair amount of humor, a fair amount of tech. It's perhaps a little less family friendly: more sex than romance. I'm less fond of his more recent Lightning and Thunder books.

He hasn't written much lately, and these books are more high science fantasy (but with very real-science underpinnings), but his Queendom of Sol books (The Collapsium, The Wellstone, Lost in Transmission, and To Crush the Moon) should be well received by Bujold fans.
Evan H.
8. James Davis Nicoll
I think any reasonable person would agree that Bujold is writing hard SF (although often on subjects, like the impact of reproductive technology, most hard SF writers eschew) but because of the way she writes, what she writers about and because she chooses to do this while being female*, that aspect is often overlooked. In that spirit I offer Rosemary Kirstein's Steerswoman series, which looks like fantasy and is in fact hard SF.

* Ask people to rattle off a list of HSF writers and see how often people like Pamela Sargent, Chris Moriarty, Linda Nagata, M.J. Locke and Joan Slonczewski are mentioned. Only not right now because I've tainted the pool by posting this.
David Dyer-Bennet
9. dd-b
Hmm, how about The Mote in God's Eye? Has people with inherited influence with a sense of duty, romance content, technological impact on a somewhat backward society, military relationships, all in one! Unfortunately neither author has ever done anything else like it again, so even if that works, it's just one book.
Helen Wright
10. arkessian
Already late to the party...

But I also put Sharon Lee and Steve Miller's Liaden Universe and The Exordium books by Dave Trowbridge and Sherwood Smith in this admittedly large bucket. Not so sure about Rosemary Kirstein's Steerswoman series, much as I adore it. C.J. Cherryh and Melissa Scott are long time favourites (and I love that phrase: space stations with their own smell), as is Doris Egan (and her alter-ego Jane Emerson who wrote City of Diamond.). Jon Walter Williams is a recent discovery, and well worth reading. As is Brust’s Dragaera series.

Only disappointment about this (series of ) posts is that I've not discovered anything new to read. Yet.
Nancy Lebovitz
12. NancyLebovitz
More with disabled main characters: Songs of Chaos by S. N. Lewitt (asthma), The Butterfly Kid by Chester Anderson (extreme near-sightedness).

I wouldn't count Heinlein's The Moon Is Harsh Mistress (Mannie's missing arm is so fully compensated for by prosthetics), but Campbell's missing leg in The Cat Who Walks through Walls seems more realistically portrayed.

Rachel Caine's Working Stiff's protagonist has a serious disease which requires ongoing care-- only available through her evil employer.

Carolyn Crane's Mind Games (an odd book that I recommend) has a main character with crippling hypochondria which is eventually weaponized.
Josh Jasper
11. joshjasper
If you're going for SF mystery, why not start where it starts - the Gil the ARM stories by Niven?
Nick S
13. kukkurovaca
The protagonist of Peter Watts's Blindsight is sort of like the inverse of Miles Vorkosigan; where Miles suffers physical damage that is only partially offset by technological intervention, Siri suffers extreme brain damage that is only partially offset by technology.
Evan H.
14. James Davis Nicoll
If I was going to compare something in the Mote in God's Eyeverse to Bujold, I don't think I'd use the rather blokey MiGE itself but rather the recent and unfairly obscure sequel Outies by archaeologist J.R. Pournelle; among other things, it is the only MiGE book to make the Long List for the Tiptree.
Evan H.
15. eyelessgame
Men do in fact read Cruisie. :)

About disabled protagonists: if you expand SF to include superhero stories, you get a lot more characters who at least start out with disabilities - Matt Murdoch, Tony Stark, Barbara Gordon, Victor Stone - and once you're into cyborgs you also get Steve Austin and Jaime Sommers.

Cyborgs aren't so much disabled as using tech to overcompensate, so I guess I'm off-topic. (Eric Donovan). Still, many cyborg stories have aspects where the fact of the disability comes into play.

Oooh, disabled protagonists - how about almost everybody in Legacy of Heorot?
Evan H.
16. Meg T
I would second Lies of Locke Lamora. It has a similar 'forward momentum' sense to the plot, humor mixed in and a strong sense of worldbuilding, if not quite as central.

Kameron Hurley's God's War series is much, much darker and more violent, but it has fantastic worldbuilding and ideas about how technology effects culture and a world that is isolated for the most part.

I can't think of a lot of optimistic science fiction that also deals with technology in a realistic way, which is something I think Bujold does really well. I wish there was more.
Evan H.
17. James Davis Nicoll
If you're going for SF mystery, why not start where it starts - the Gil the ARM stories by Niven?

Gil Hamilton shows up in 1968's "Death By Ecstasy", which is 14 years after Asimov's procedural Caves of Steel was published and 18 years after Clement's island cozyNeedle was published.
Evan H.
18. Megaera
If it doesn't have to be SF, the most comparable series to the Vorkosigan books I've found is the Amelia Peabody mystery series by Elizabeth Peters, esp. the quartet (Seeing a Large Cat, The Ape Who Guards the Balance, The Falcon at the Portal, He Shall Thunder in the Sky), but really, all of them up through Lord of the Silent.

But it depends on what you're looking for, as you say. What I'm looking for in Bujold readalikes is larger than life characters in an exotic setting, an unreliable narrator, the occasional romance, a hero (Miles, of course, and in the Peabody books, Amelia's son Ramses later in the series) I can care about, the occasional mystery, characters who grow up and older and change over the course of the series, and adventure that emerges from the characters' personalities and flaws.

If anyone can give me suggestions that fill that particular bill (doesn't have to be SF, obviously), you'd make my year.
Beth Friedman
19. carbonel
In a weird sort of way, for the obligation and neo-feudalism thing, Joel Rosenberg's D'Shai and Hour of the Octopus might be relevant.
Shelly wb
20. shellywb
Though you've mentioned Dunnett, I tend to associate the Vorkosigans with the Lymond Chronicles. It may be in part because it was the Bujold mailing list that introduced me to them, but honestly the heroes remind me so much of each other. They're so very clever, so very damaged at an early age, and thinking they had all the answers about how to fix it, and being so very wrong about that. Lymond's character flaws and problems are taken further, but they have a lot in common.
Sean Arthur
21. wsean
Awesome, can't wait to try some of these. The Vorkosigan books are among my favorites.

@18- I would suggest the Liaden books that some others have mentioned, especially if you start with Fledgling.
Evan H.
22. Kenny Cross
I was (and still am) a huge fan of Miles and Bujold. I am also a huge fan of Gordon R. Dickson and his Childe Cycle. After I had read all the way up to THE VOR GAME (when it was first released) I was going back and re-reading THE CHILDE CYCLE by Gordon R. Dickson, which I do every few years or so. Then a thunderbolt blasted my mind when I was reading TACTICS OF MISTAKE. Miles seems to me the reincarnation of Cletus Grahame or should I say Miles DNA is infected with a huge dose of Cletus Grahame in all the right places. If the novels of Vorkosigan and the Childe Cycle touch briefly in spirit it is in TACTICS OF MISTAKE by Dickson.
Evan H.
23. Don Fitch
For something both similar to Miles and very different, I think of Honor Harrington -- she's the opposite of frenetic & emotional, but they're driven by very similar senses of Responsibility. (Yeah, I do hate to spend good money for a book -- and in both these series, I can't resist Instant Gratification hardcovers -- then skip over almost a quarter of the text -- in this case, because I find the strategy & battle-detail technobabble boring -- but I continue to do it even though the Honor series has been winding-down for several voluomes.)

I'm not sure of the parallels, but I get a similar (maybe just Comfort Reading scale effect) feeling from reading the early Rissa & Bran series by F. M. Busby. (Admittedly, a bit dated -- hot-tubs, drinking, smoking "drug-sticks", and having some rather casual sex -- but then... so am I. and it's within a decade or two of my dates.)
Evan H.
24. Jan Mcdonald
Many similarities with Butcher's Furies of Calderon series - disabled young hero, coming of age, romance, genius antics. Fantasy, not hard sci fi, but the closest thing I've found to a Vorkosigan fix.
Evan H.
25. James Davis Nicoll
Rissa & Bran series by F. M. Busby.

I have a crumbling Disco Era Avon(?) omnibus of the Rissa stories, which I looked at a while back after real-world event reminded me of UET (the company that oversees the political-economic optimization of North America in those books). For some reason, I couldn't get past the stilted dialogue, which is weird because I can motor through much, much worse prose.

As I recall, one detail in it does overlap with Bujold's interests but not in a way she'd handle it; one of the ways UETs signals to its subject populations that UET is in charge is by inflicting unrequested (but reversable) sterility on the underclasses. Technological management of fertility, guided by state policies, pops up all through Bujold but generally the people in control are not vicious thugs like the ones making UET policy.
Evan H.
26. Nicholas Winter
Outies is actually written by Jennifer Pournelle, the daughter of Jerry Pournelle.

Really. Truly.

It's actually much better written than The Gripping Hand was.
Evan H.
27. James Davis Nicoll
Nicholas, are we agreeing at length here? The name on the book is JR Pournelle and the J stands for Jennifer.

I wish I knew the magic words to make people buy her book because it's worth picking up. I think it doesn't help that it never got picked up by a major publisher.
Evan H.
28. StochasticBird
Another book with an interesting take on what we consider to be disabilities (the author might or might not agree that they are), with some great world-building, was This Alien Shore by C.S. Friedman. It's a one-off that I desperately wish was a series, and one of the books I often give away to people with any interest in what we call mental illness. Fascinating book.
Evan H.
29. Damien RS
26th century? Fans usually thing 28th or 30th. Also you have "Wormholm Nexus"

Breath-is-word and feudal obligation: P. C. Hodgell's Kencyrath. Even most of the villainous Highborn would rather die than *lie* outright, it seems to be a racial quirk, while Jame and Tori are nobless oblige distilled.

Charles Finlay published "The Political Officer", which was originally fanfic titled "Negri's Boys".

I don't know if she caused it but my impression was that there was a huge rise in the dominance of wormhole FTL after her, at least among the authors I read. Of course I also associate with "harder" SF and extropian fantasies of "empire time" and Orion's Arm. Ken MacLeod's Fall Revolution and Newton's Wake, Egan's Diaspora (didn't work, but explored by the characters), IMB's _Feersum Enjinn_ and _The Algebraist_. Mote in God's Eye is older but Alderson points are basically a wormhole nexus.

I group Pratchett and Bujold together on a couple of dimensions, humor (Pratchett's more openly comedic, Lois is good at making me laugh totally unexpectedly) and 'humanism triumphant', not letting their magic/tech change human condition too much. (Magic is off to the side, Igor isn't allowed to raise dead watchmen; the Nexus can replace pretty much every body part other than the brain with mechanical or grown substitutes but maximum old age hasn't crept up much, outside of a couple of small engineered populations.)
Evan H.
30. Damien RS
But it depends on what you're looking for, as you say. What I'm looking
for in Bujold readalikes is larger than life characters in an exotic
setting, an unreliable narrator, the occasional romance, a hero (Miles,
of course, and in the Peabody books, Amelia's son Ramses later in the
series) I can care about, the occasional mystery, characters who grow up
and older and change over the course of the series, and adventure that
emerges from the characters' personalities and flaws."

Hodgell doesn't have unreliable narrator (apart from some possible induced amnesia) and not that much romance, but otherwise qualifies. Brust does unreliable narrator most of the time and a bit more romance.
Kevin Connolly
31. Cross777
F.M.Busby's Rissa and Tregare books are nothing like Bujold. Too dark. (Good books, don't get me wrong but not the same at all.)
Evan H.
32. James Davis Nicoll
I don't know if she caused it but my impression was that there was a huge rise in the dominance of wormhole FTL after her, at least among the authors I read.

I would inclined to point a finger at Kip Thorne, although if I could find it I would link to a short piece by Michael McCullum about the narrative advantages of jump point-style set ups.
Evan H.
33. LMB
I was lately reminded in a discussion on another board...

Megan Whalen Turner: start with The Thief, go on to The Queen of Attolia and then The King of Attolia. There is also a 4th volume, if you get that far; A Conspiracy of Kings iirc. Don't get them out of order. Ostensibly YA fantasy, so you probably have to look in the YA rather than the SF sections to find them. Set in a Greek-like world.

Wonderfully subtle writer. I've read them, mm, maybe 3 times so far? Don't read the reviews or descriptions before you start, as the books are rather spoiler-sensitive. Just trust me.

I suspect she may have a problem with the series being trapped in the YA genre as the characters age and demand adult-book treatment, but she does very well despite any limitations. Wholly bloat-free, among other things.

Ta, L.
Evan H.
35. Remus Shepherd
Thanks for this, Jo.

I met Lois at 4th St. Fantasy con one year, and I told her that I loved 'Cordelia's Honor', but I couldn't read any more because I can not stand Cordelia's smarmy mutant son. He's annoying, and he's the star of the rest of the series. She didn't have any good recommendations for me other than to give him another try. (I did; I just can't take him.)

Think I'll look up something from Helen Wright now...
Evan H.
36. OtterB
I get a similar vibe of worldbuilding, intriguing protagonist, philosophically-intriguing technology, and dynamic and honorable protagonist from Janet Kagan's Hellspark. It is, alas, a standalone.

Family-interconnection space opera, you might try the Mageworlds series by Doyle & Macdonald, beginning with The Price of the Stars.
Lauren James
37. LaurenJ
I'm essentially stealing this from one of Jo's old recommendations, but The Beacon at Alexandria, historical fiction, has some of Bujold's feel to it, for me: it's grounded in specific social details, it's optimistic, and there's a focus on achievement and science with a pleasant romance going on, too.
Evan H.
38. houseboatonstyx
18. Megaera

What I'm looking for in Bujold readalikes is larger than life characters in an exotic setting, an unreliable narrator, the occasional romance, a hero (Miles, of course, and in the Peabody books, Amelia's son Ramses later in the series) I can care about, the occasional mystery, characters who grow up and older and change over the course of the series, and adventure that emerges from the characters' personalities and flaws.

Xanth has all of those, especially if you count the unreliable POV character in third person. Thirkell's Bartsetshire has the same structure of the annoying children in earlier books, becoming the lovers in the next, then the parents and grandparents in later books.
Rob Munnelly
39. RobMRobM
Here's my odd connection thought - Diana Gabaldon's Lord John novellas. Honor bound, closely tied to the military and associated traditions, subject to a handicap - being gay at a place and time (1700s England) that disclosure would result in a death sentence, and having several lost crushes and loves to be thought about. He also has a loving, pretty complex family life. Like Vorkosigan, the novellas stand on their own but also fit well into a complex series - both the stories on Lord John in particular and the broader Outlander novels.
Rob Munnelly
40. RobMRobM
@33 - is that you, Ms. B? Really looking forward to reading the Ivan book this week.
Kate Nepveu
41. katenepveu
_Code Name Verity_ by Elizabeth Wein--historical not SF, set in WWII, female Scots spy captured and tortured by Nazis in France, buys a reprieve by agreeing to write down all she knows about the British war effort, which she uses as a way of telling the story of her friendship with the (female) pilot who dropped her in France. Said spy is a descendant of Lymond and Wimsey and suchlike, and so will appeal to those who like Miles in madcap brilliant mode, and the book is full of strong relationships and concrete worldbuilding and razor-wire emotional tension.
David Goldfarb
42. David_Goldfarb
joelfinkle@7 seems, perhaps by accident, to be attributing the "Queendom of Sol" books to John Varley. They are actually by Wil McCarthy.
Alan Brown
43. AlanBrown
It is interesting to see this post, because just the other day I was thinking that Bujold has done more to hold my interest, with characters I care deeply about, over the course of more books, than just about any other author. There is just so much humanity, diversity, and compelling drama in her books. I don't read nearly as much science fiction as I used to, but I always advance order her books, and feel a sense of excitement every time I hear a new book is coming.
Other writers who have had that grip on me over long series include Patrick O'Brian, the nautical fiction author. S.M. Stirling's ongoing series about the world where technology stops has also been very enjoyable.
I can think of far more authors who held my attention for only a book, two, or even a part of a series. But there are few like Bujold. And it is not just me. My father loved Bujold, so do my brothers, my son and his wife--she took us all by storm.
And she has a new book being delivered from Amazon the day after tomorrow. Can't wait!!!
Evan H.
44. mazarin
I twenty-second Lee and Miller. But I would also like to suggest " A Deepness in the Sky" by Vernor Vinge. Interstellar space Opera, a bit of a mystery, a tinge of Romance, Bio-tech, and a satisfying end. I am not sure that any of VV's other books would scratch the LNB itch in the same way, but would recommend them all the same.
Megan Walen Turner has also been recommended to me as "Something else Like.." Diana Wynne Jones, so MWT has now moved to the top of my must get list...
David Dyer-Bennet
45. dd-b
Nicholas Winter is correct on the factual aspects of Outies. I'm also in agreement that it's MUCH better than The Gripping Hand (which is a matter of opinion).
Evan H.
46. Mary Beth
Lois @ 33-- I was scrolling down this thread thinking, I've GOT to recommend Turner's Attolia series! And then I saw you've done it. Well played.

And I just got an email saying my copy of Captain Vorpatril's Alliance shipped today. Looking forward to curling up with it this weekend. :)
Evan H.
47. Shanna Swendson
For disabled characters and some of the same space opera sense, I like the series of books by Anne McCaffrey (later volumes co-authored with others) that begins with The Ship Who Sang. People whose brains are brilliant but whose bodies don't work become the pilots/controllers for spaceships and space stations, so they essentially get an entire ship or station for a body. Which can get awkward when they fall in love with a crew member who's limited to a regular human body.

For the mix of adventure and romance, Connie Willis and Cynthia Felice co-authored a few novels that sort of scratch the same Bujold itch for me. They're standalone instead of a series, but the tone somehow works just right for me.
Evan H.
48. James Davis Nicoll
The Willis/Felice novels are:Water Witch (1982) , Light Raid (1989), Promised Land (1997).

From a Canadian POV, the second one is hilarious, because it has Anglophone North America squaring off against the menace of Francophone North America, not including the Cajun bit, and despite (given current populations and demographic trends) outnumbering the French something like 40:1 only able to maintain a stalemate. Quebec seems to bring out the wacky in a lot of people (1). See also that story in Card's Capital where Crimson Quebec facilitates the invasion of effete, liberal America.

1: I was just in a conversation about alternate histories where someone asserted that if an indepenent Quebec had developed the Bomb, the US would have nuked them into extinction; the phrase box of ashes got mentioned, I think. Note that Quebec was not stated to have some form of North Korean-magnitude extremist politics in the thread.
Evan H.
49. mochabean
@37 -- I was thinking the same thing about Beacon at Alexandria -- main character living a double life and the challenge of integrating two identities, coping with a frustrating institution and empire she is loyal to and loves, etc.

@40 -- don't you mean the 'Ivan, you idiot!' book? Me too.
50. JoeNotCharles
Very different in tone, but another character who hits many of the same buttons as Miles - a dwarf in an extremely militaristic society with a lot of prejudices, a member of a very important family (in fact the son of the de-facto head of government for a long time), someone who is overshadowed by his famous relatives and trying to find his own place, and someone who is incredibly intelligent and witty - is, of course, Tyrion Lannister from A Song of Ice and Fire.

The difference is that his father hates him and his family is all kinds of screwed up, whereas Miles' family was very supportive and he still had a hard time. And of course there are a lot of other things going on in ASoIaF. But Tyrion's part of the story makes a good contrast to Miles' life - it could be seen as a way Miles himself could have gone if circumstances had been different.

(In that sense Tyrion is more like Mark than Miles...)
Rob Munnelly
51. RobMRobM
@50 - Second that one. I had the same thought.

@49 - based on reading the first 6 six free chapters, it could well be the "Byerly, you idiot" book.
Deana Whitney
52. Braid_Tug
I can't wait for the Ivan book to arrive on my doorstep!

I have no recommendations to add to the list, but plan to look up some of the ones suggested. Thanks!

Well, Sherrilyn Kenyon’s “The League” series hits a few notes, but these are romances, set in a Galactic space opera setting. One charter is even an heir (of sorts) to one of the empires, but the main focus is more on how each hero has been horribly betrayed by life. Yet the love of the right person can make things all better.

Just got my mom started on the series. But sort of messed up. When I thought I was giving her "The Vor Game" she got "Cryoburn" instead. So she knows the current "end" but is working on the early books now.
Evan H.
53. A Edwards
Gosh, I'm usually all alone in telling people to try Hodgell's books...nice to see other folks with good taste out there! ;) They're also similar to the Vorkosiverse in that there are more damaged people wrestling their various demons (almost literally at times) than you'll find in a lot of fiction.
Evan H.
54. Elayne
@35 Funny, I had the same reaction when I read the first couple of Miles books, and by the time I got to Brothers in Arms, I couldn't STAND it anymore. Then it all changed with Mirror Dance. I don't know if it was the writing of the character or his experiences that changed him but he became FAR more tolerable at that point. I go with a bit of both because Cetaganda which chronologically is before Mirror Dance, I also liked.

Yep 33 is Lois. I recognize the style from other forums.
Evan H.
55. joelfinkle
42. David_Goldfarb joelfinkle@7 seems, perhaps by accident, to be attributing the "Queendom of Sol" books to John Varley. They are actually by Wil McCarthy
Whoops -- I did not mean to attribute them to Varley, those two paragraphs were meant to be two different sets. I just left "Wil McCarthy" out where the second "his" ended up.
Evan H.
56. Gerry__Quinn
James Nicoll @8: "Ask people to rattle off a list of HSF writers and see how often people like Pamela Sargent, Chris Moriarty, Linda Nagata, M.J. Locke and Joan Slonczewski are mentioned. Only not right now because I've tainted the pool by posting this."

Hardly anyone has heard of any of those (maybe a vague inkling of Sargent). Some of them have names that don't indicate a gender, and nobody reading their stuff would particularly care.
Alan Brown
57. AlanBrown
To mention an author who I don't think got enough attention for some excellent work, I would recommend a series (only three books so far, but I hope for more), by the author Thomas Harlan, collectively known as the In the Time of the Sixth Sun series: Wasteland of Flint, House of Reeds, and Land of the Dead. Good, intelligent adventure with compelling characters. I am hoping Tor sticks with him so he can finish what I think was intended as a six book series.
Alayne McGregor
58. alaynem
Gerry Quinn @56: I know all of them and have read all at least one thing by each of them (except Locke).

In my recent reading, the author that comes nearest to Bujold's immersive experience is Laurie King's Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes series (which also can be read out of order).
Evan H.
59. notjustatwerp
I'm surprised nobody has mentioned The Kingkiller Chronicle by Patrick Rothfuss. It's fantasy, but it should appeal to anyone that likes that accelerondo pacing of the Vorkosigan Saga. The protagonist, Kvothe, also shares a lot in common with Miles (and Locke Lamora). It's that same kind of character that is too clever for their own good, gets in over their head and then has to outwit and manipulate everyone to get out of it. There is also a strong current of romance running through the books. Also of note: unreliable narration, damaged protagonist, and oddly poetic at times.

Kvothe comes across as more of a Mary-Sue than Miles or Locke ever do, though. I'm of the opinion that it's because the story is told by Kvothe, whom is an admitted storyteller, liar and embellisher. Keep that in mind before dismissing the character. I've lost count of how many people haven't caught on to the fact that Kvothe is an unreliable narrator even though it is blatantly obvious when he skips over important parts of the story.
Evan H.
60. James Davis Nicoll
58, you may know Locke as Laura J. Mixon.
Pamela Adams
61. PamAdams
I'm essentially stealing this from one of Jo's old recommendations, but The Beacon at Alexandria,

Ha! I was just trying to remember that title!

I agree with LMB's recommendation of Megan Whelan Turner- great books!
Alan Brown
62. AlanBrown
Ms. Bujold's newest book just arrived on my doorstep today. If you don't hear from me for a few days, you'll know why!
Evan H.
63. James Davis Nicoll
I remembered another SF novel with a disabled protagonist: A Specter is Haunting Texas. Although the protagonist is fine in his home environment so maybe he doesn't count.
Evan H.
64. bjvl
I advocate Kristine Smith's Jani Killian books.
Rosemary Smith
65. RoseRedFern
I also heartily recommend Megan Whelan Turner's Attolia books. Must be read in order and please don't spoil yourselves.
Joshua Hoke
66. Tapinger
Rachel Hartman said her book Seraphina was influenced, in revisions, by Bujold's Curse of Chalion, so there's at least one self-proclaimed influencee.
Evan H.
67. ungratefuljb
@35: Miles is not a mutant; the damage was teratogenic.
Evan H.
68. Samuraiweasel
I like the snarky humour in the books and keep looking for stuff with a similar vibe, unfortunately good stuff is hard to come by, and most I've already hunted down and read, for those wondering
Codex alera by Jim butcher
Bartimaeus series
Vlad taltos series by Stephen brust
Locke Lamora

If anyone has any other suggestions in this line, I'd be glad to hear about them.
Evan H.
69. Harpergirl
Thank you for having this post, Jo!

Thanks to all the commentors who suggested the Liaden series; I gave it a try this past winter break and it's been wonderful and delightful and I was worried for a while how I could bring myself to put the books down long enough to go to class, since I wouldn't be able to finish the series by the end of break. (There's a definite hazard in stumbling unto a wonderful series that has a decade's worth of books for one to enjoy with none of the waiting...)
Evan H.
70. DeAnn
You totally missed Sharon Lee and Steve Millers FABULOUS and intricate space opera, their "Liaden Universe" series, starting with "Agent of Change", but you can find all the books listed at
Also, Linnea Sinclair writes incredible space opera and SF/Romance hybrids in her Dock Five universe, and then there's Ann Agguire's Sirantha Jax series, starting with "Grimspace."
There are tons more, I can't even list them all.
Evan H.
71. Lorena
I'd add Lindsay Buroker's Encrypted (and its sequel, Decrypted) for those who liked the science fiction romance of Shards of Honor and Barrayar (although Buroker is more steampunky). There is a series after it, the Emperor's Edge, which takes place after the events to E and D.
Evan H.
72. Lorena
An addition to my previous post: Encryped also has that from-opposite-sides thing from Shards of Honor as well, while Decrpyted has the partner-trying-to-survive-the-other-country-and-culture thing of Barrayar.
Evan H.
73. Ashbet
It's urban fantasy rather than science fiction, but since we're talking disabled protagonists with a strong sense of honor, I recommend Tanya Huff's "Blood" series (read them in order -- the disability is that Vicki "Victory" Nelson is a former cop who has had to leave the police force because she has retinitis pigmentosa and is slowly going blind.) There's also a good deal of witty banter in there, and a rather unusual vampire ;)

(Very few people can beat LMB for me -- I adore her writing and characters and the way she can make me laugh and cry and LOVE these amazing, complex, flawed people that she creates!)

Oh!! And if you want witty banter, comedies of manners, hard-sci-fi in a fallen-tech world where the remaining science is close to magic, and wonderfully nuanced characters who learn and grow -- check out "The Maker's Mask" and "The Hawkwood War" (the first two books in the Requite series) by Ankaret Wells. Wonderful stuff!

She also did an industrial-fantasy book set in an entirely different world, which has more overt humor (often the result of the narratrix's internal monologue) and comedy involving class, manners, and traditions. It's got a GREAT heroine and an unconventional and thoroughly enjoyable romance -- a "fluffier" book than the two Requite novels listed above, with a direct Regency-romance influence.
Evan H.
74. neroden
Looking for social implications of biotechnology -- but something less downbeat than Cherryh! Not really found much yet. Occasional short stories by various authors, but no writer who has this as a *theme*.
Evan H.
75. Danaeris
Coming VERY late to the conversation... I've often pondered this question. What I love about the Vorkosigan series is the story of an underestimated underdog succeeding beyond all expectations through his wits alone.

I'll second the Codex Alera by Jim Butcher, if you don't mind high fantasy. To some extent, the first half or so of the Imager's Portfolio by Modesitt are in this category too. Some of Dave Duncan's characters follow this pattern, and as some have mentioned, the Vatta series by Elizabeth Moon. But of all of these, the Codex Alera comes closest, in my opinion.
Evan H.
76. Tanni
Thank you so much for this post and the ensuing comments! I love the Vorkosigan series and have been looking for something along their lines to read! What I love most about it is, of course, Miles; the snappy dialogue; the sheer hilarity of the situations, and the way that Miles *grows* after every adventure.
Tricia Irish
77. Tektonica
I'm just finishing my second read through of ALL of the Vorkosigan Saga books, and am already fearing withdrawal. Should I just keep rereading them?

Thank you for this post and all of these other recommendations. I loved the complex characters, moral questions, wit and growth in this series. The technologies were fascinating, but did not "run" the story! Great world building. Bujold is a wonderful writer.

Btw, does anyone know if there will be a continuation of this series? Miles has gotten to a very evolved state now....I'd love to see him tackle some more moral, and galactic problems.
Rob Munnelly
78. RobMRobM
Only the second? What a newbie! LOL

EDIT - In an interview from earlier this month LMB said she is "somewhat on a writing hiatus," after publishing a book of essays, etc. So no idea what she will work on next.
Evan H.
79. Char
Wow. Lots of good info here. I plan to check out some of the authors mentioned in the post and in the comments. Lately, I have been reading Tanya Huff, Jack Campbell, and David Weber.

Below, I compare Bujold's Vorkosigan Series with Lee and Miller's Liaden Universe. Having read both series, I thought I'd mention my thoughts here.

Both are space opera, but unlike the Vorkosigan Series, the Liaden Universe includes several fantastical plot devices -- wizards, goddesses, soul-mating, a sentient tree, magical felines like Merlin, and "The Luck" (which surrounds Clan Korval). Problems are solved by magic in some cases, by sweat and skill in others (NECESSITY's CHILD had little magical problem-solving, compared to I DARE, where characters suddenly zap onto a planet, walk through walls, share a body, etc.).

Bujold's Vokosigan Series has no magic. It includes well developed, repeating characters and a coherent, plausible plotline, spinning across a neatly woven series. I often chuckle at some of the shenanigans Miles gets up to, and while there is romance, it is not overdone, and not too sexy. When characters are faced with difficulties and losses, you can feel the pain. When shame, fear, and other personal difficulties are overcome, you can feel the triumph, for nothing is easily accomplished via a dramliza or a goddess (Bujold's BORDERS OF INFINITY and MEMORY come to mind).

I have some quibbles about Vorkosigan, but in general, it's solid space opera, light on the science technicalities, focusing mostly on biological advances (cloning, genetic engineering, uterine replicators, etc.). In my view, Bujold's strengths are dialogue, plot development, relationship development, and characterization. Someone mentioned Georgette Heyer in relationship to KOMARR and A CIVIL CAMPAIGN. Yes. Having read Heyer, the parallels are clear. The butter bugs!

The Liadon Universe is fun, like a beach read, and addictive like chocolate, relying on romantic or smexy scenes, wizardly tricks, and erratic head hopping to fabricate momentum -- the scene often shifts back and forth three times in one chapter. In creating the series, the authors write out of order, jumping forward or backward a few centuries, often leaving the most current characters literally dying on a cliffhanger. Years go by before the next connected installment is released, because they inserted a book out of sequence, in the interim. This has caused them to pull at least one short story from the "true" corpus, becuase plot lines and time lines clashed. Also, if one doesn't read the short stories, one may have a difficult time comprehending — or fully enjoying — some aspects of the full length novels. (However, this is true of the Vorkosigan Series, too.) Liaden characters tend to be a little flat and superficial, with some notable exceptions, like Pat Rin, Val Con, and Syl Vor. Characterization is inconsistent. In one book, a wizard can not perform some feat (or does not, when in extreme danger); in another book, the same wizard can — and does — easily do it. The enemies are simply painted as bad, with little backstory, whether it is the Shereikas in the old world or the Department of the Interior in the new.

Having said all this, there is something marvelously wondrous about the Liaden series. I like the sentient tree, standing across 1400 years of narration. I like seeing all the threads pull together, even though I find gaping holes in the fabric. The AGENT of CHANGE sequence is really fun. The MIGRATION DUOLOGY introduces the tree and portrays the discovery of the new universe (Liaden), setting the stage for Clan Korval. Kevin T. Collins does a superb job narrating the first three books: Crystal Soldier, Crystal Dragon, Balance of Trade.

I thoroughly enjoy the Liaden Universe, but I don't take it too seriously, or the inconsistencies start piling up.
Evan H.
80. JackieB
I found Kate Elliott's Jaran series very similar to Shards of Honor. Strong central female narrator, cross-cultural romance, high tech society vs horse-riding nomads, politics. Recommended.
Evan H.
81. Amy Levine
The other thing to do after you've read the whole Vorkosigan series, is to listen to them on audio--they will add nuances, and have you choking with laughter, and moved to tears--again!
Evan H.
82. mcfan
I scanned through the responses and didn't see any mention of Catherine asaro. Her sci fi books have some similarities to Bujold's works, especially with the cultural differences across planets/societies, some romance, some coming of age, some military conflicts, etc.
Evan H.
83. Fayley Arthur
I would also recommend Kate Elliott if you like complete and believable characters, touches of insight and well developed cultures like Bujold.
Evan H.
84. mandasarah
Tanya Huff's Valor Confederation series. Military sci-fi, with Tanya Huff's wonderful sense of humor. Just delightful.
Evan H.
85. shep
I think I like Miles better and better as he grows up.
I love Pratchett as a political satirist rather than primarily sf. Love him though, whatever the label. Tanya Huff Confederation series way more satisfying than the Blood boooks- by the 3rd or 4th read they just don't hold my interest.
Lots of new authors for me to check out here. Thanks people

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